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Haggai International, An “Organization In Transition,” Posts Big Losses

Warren Cole Smith

The Haggai International Institute for Advanced Leadership Training posted a $3.3-million loss for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.  It’s the third straight year of losses for the leadership and evangelism ministry.  Over the past three years, the 51-year-old ministry has posted losses totaling more than $7.5-million.

However, total revenue for the ministry did reverse a decade-long decline.  Revenue was about $12-million, up from the previous year’s revenue of about $10-million, though both these numbers are far less than in years past.  In 2013, Haggai International’s revenue exceeded $15-million, and in 2007, it exceeded $20-million.

Dr. John Haggai founded Haggai International, in the 1960s, following his first trip to Asia.  On that trip, Haggai realized that – according to a statement from the organization – “changes in global geo-politics, brought about by the end of colonialism, required new strategies for world evangelism.”

Haggai “determined to mobilize national Christian leaders — laity and clergy — to effectively demonstrate and present the Gospel to their own people. This approach overcame challenges facing cross-cultural missions: visa rejections, language and cultural obstacles and high costs.”

In the fall of 1969, 19 men from four countries gathered in Switzerland for the first session of what is today called Haggai International.

Since its founding, Haggai International says it has “equipped and motivated more than 123,000 Christian clergy and lay leaders working in almost all the non-Western countries of the world. Each leader multiplies their effectiveness significantly by passing on their training to an average of 100 other leaders within two years.”

One of the hallmarks of Haggai International has been to train leaders in all arenas of life, not just in the church.  That’s why Haggai Institute says it “quietly” trains leaders in business, education, government, and other key sectors of society.

That model of targeting the elite, of “influencing the influential,” plus Haggai’s tireless promotions and infectious style, caused the ministry to grow and attract donors with deep pockets.  The Day family, who founded the Day’s Inn hotel chain, was a backer.  Haggai opened a training center in Hawaii in 1993, which the ministry still operates.

Haggai, though 96 years old, still draws a salary which, with benefits, exceeds $300,000 per year.  The ministry’s current president, Dr. Beverly Upton, said Haggai is still active in the ministry and maintains relationships with board members and major donors.  She also said both her salary and Haggai’s salary were set by the board of directors.  The current board has 21 members.  Many of them have been on the board for decades and have personal ties to Haggai.

While there is no perfect board size, most experts agree that 21 is too large to provide meaningful oversight.  A board of 7 to 11 members is typical.  The National Association of Corporate Directors, in a survey of its members, found that 60 percent of respondents had 8 to 11 members.  In a telephone interview with MinistryWatch, Upton said it was “transitional that the board is that size.  We’re looking at that.”

Board size is not the only area Upton said was under review.  She acknowledged that Haggai Institute is “an organization in transition.”  She said the “path forward” for Haggai Institute would include a digital learning platform, re-design of the ministry’s curriculum, and other initiatives.

Upton became CEO in 2016.  Her own salary and benefits exceeded $250,000 in 2019, though she said that after three straight years of losses she “made a request [to the board] that my salary not be increased.”

However, it will likely take more than a salary freeze to fix the financial issues at Haggai.  Fundraising costs in the most recent year exceeded $2.9-million, or 24.5 percent of revenue.  This percentage far exceeds the 6 percent median of other similar ministries in the MinistryWatch database.  Haggai Institute earned MinistryWatch’s lowest possible financial efficiency rating, 1 star, and its fundraising efficiency ranked it last in its category.

That said, Haggai Institute did maintain a Transparency Grade of “A” from MinistryWatch, and it has been a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability since 2014.

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Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine and has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 20 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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